The first developer conference I ever attended was VBITS (“Visual Basic Insider’s Technical Summit” - now defunct) in San Francisco. I won’t forget that experience or the keynote from Paul Saffo, a futurist who exhorted us to look beyond our technological present and to try to anticipate and respond to trends.
It was not completely my own efforts but something must have stuck: learning about vtable binding and COM was useful but I also realized that I needed to do everything I could to get involved with web development. Soon after I was doing a lot more with Visual Interdev than I was with Visual Basic - and the rest is history.
Mary Meeker recently released her 2014 Internet Trends Report and it’s an opportunity, these many years down the road, to try to see the big picture and get a bigger sense of direction. I looked at a few versions: the primary source and a helpful annotated version on TechCrunch.
Here are my takeaways: (apologies for going List of N)
Mobile is the place to be as a developer.
I’m fortunate to be a full time Android dev at present and it will be important to hone and improve the skill set. Apple’s recent announcement of Swift is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of iOS development as well.
In the midst of declining quality of education, online education is at a groundswell for those who are willing to take initiative. Taking initiative is easy for me (I love learning) but I’m easily distracted so focusing on a single topic or subject matter area is more of a challenge. Coursera has recently launched educational tracks (Android, Data Science) which will help with this.
Single Purpose Apps / Invisible Apps
Apps should be designed to do one thing. Invisible apps leverage notification, context, and predictive computation to give you information when you need it. Here is the quote lifted from slide 41:
“We’re entering the age of apps as service layers. These are apps you have on your phone but only open when you know they explicitly have something to say to you. They aren’t for ‘idle browsing,’ they’re purpose-built & informed by contextual signals like hardware sensors, location, history of use & predictive computation.” – Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch, 5/15/14
My mindset to date is on apps that users interact with but I need to start thinking more of apps as a way of passively doing things for the user - as my colleague at Vertigo put it: “giving [users] an additional sense.” Sometimes this can be a simple matter of phrasing; several times now forecast.io will tell me it will be raining “in a few minutes” with incredible accuracy.
Design as a feature
Rethinking old concepts (e.g. Yellow pages) in mobile design. I was impressed by the WWDC 2014 keynote in which Apple demonstrated for those of us who have forgotten that for them, design is a feature. I saw people joking during the keynote about all the references to transparency in UI of the new version of OSX, Yosemite, but in my mind spending as much time in the keynote on the topic just shows how important it is on their part for things to look and behave correctly.
There is a lot more in the report: the growth of advertising, the flow of information through social networks, apps as second screens, China (the big project there for my son to learn Chinese?), among others. Definitely worth a few minutes of reading and some time reflecting.